Painting summer in Kallmünz
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My companion's name is not Wassily Kandinsky, and I am not Gabriele Münter.
Nevertheless, we now want to pretend and make our way to Kallmünz in Bavaria,
where the two spent a painting summer in 1903.
Painting summer - that makes you think of bright colors and shimmering light, swaying
wheat fields and lush green meadows. Painting out into nature and under the open sky,
this is how we see Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky. What the Impressionists
showed with their plein air painting can be developed further. Both are working on a more
progressive style of landscape painting, which finally leads to Expressionism.
Even today, Kallmünz is almost an insider tip, a municipality with just over 3,700
inhabitants, idyllically situated in the Naab Valley, 25 km north of Regensburg. The river
Naab is popular with canoeists and kayakers, and Kallmünz, with its steps leading into the
water, makes it easier to put on and move off.
„Ella“, as he calls her, takes the excursion boat and needs four hours to travel upriver from Regensburg. „Wassi“, as she calls him, comes by bike.
We are - less sporty - on the road by car and are amazed that we are the only ones on the
road far and wide. Maybe it may be different on the weekend. Because then the cafes and
restaurants in the village open again, we learn later. Today, in any case, almost everything
is closed, but we are happy about the relaxed atmosphere.
All the more time we have to look around, stroll around and look for motifs like the outdoor painters are supposed to do. Kallmünz has always attracted artists. We want to see with our own eyes by what they have been inspired here.
Houses in Kallmünz, © Karin Baedeker
Houses and terraced gardens nestle against the mountain between the river and the rock,
the colorful facades and archways inspire us, and above all rises the castle. The silhouette
of its ruin stands out prominently against the sky. In general, castles are a motif that the
Baedeker guidebook, with which the two usually travel, likes to describe as “picturesque”.
Today part of the ruin is scaffolded. From the top of the plateau we have a wonderful view
of the meandering river, and at the foot of the castle hill the old stone bridge leads over the
Naab to the other part of Kallmünz, where hills and meadows frame the little town. Our
walk leads us through winding streets and over steep stairs. We can imagine Gabriele
Münter and Wassily Kandinsky exploring the scenery and capturing the motifs in pictures.
They bring back many oil studies, drawings and photographs from their painting
The Lenbachhaus in Munich is showing a selection of their plein air studies in the exhibition “Under the Open Sky. Travelling with Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter”.
Painting and sketching under the open sky requires being quick. Colors and lighting
moods can change in no time: if the bridge arches are still crystal clear on the water
surface, a light breeze makes them blur. If a beam penetrates and makes the dark foliage
shine, a cloud pushes itself out of the blue in front of the sun. For quick painting, they
choose and perfect a technique that has its own charm in its volatility and liveliness: they
often apply the colors unmixed and with a spatula or palette knife. It is not uncommon for
the two to paint the same motif: Comparing what comes out of it is extremely exciting.
In a mutual exchange they portray each other doing their artistic work: She paints him, he paints her.
What strikes us on our tour are the original and charming cafes, restaurants and
guesthouses in Kallmünz - whether open or closed, whether with a rock terrace or with a
garden on the river, whether a small castle or another family run business with a long
tradition. They also make up the flair of the place.
Restaurants and Café in Kallmünz, © Karin Baedeker
The inn and guesthouse “Zur Roten Amsel” is closely linked to the artists'story. Kandinsky
has put his painting class here, and student and companion Gabriele Münter and Wassily
Kandinsky himself also stay here. In fact, we can see them from afar - with their painted
likenesses they peek out of the windows on the first floor.
At the end of this memorable painting summer in Kallmünz, the two are engaged. As the
French café owner says so romantically to us:
"It's like living in a painting here".
Exhibition and catalogue:
More photos and information about Kallmünz (in German):